12 Ways Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain

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Evidence from study after study has shown that poor sleep quality and reduced duration of sleep are associated with an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese.  Sleep restriction, which is less than 6 or 7 hours a night for the average adult, also leads to hormone disruption, slower metabolism, and increased caloric intake. Yikes!  

Here’s what your body is going through when you consistently get less than 7 or 8 hours a night of quality sleep: 

  1. 1. Up to 30% increase in daily caloric intake!  Fatigue can often be confused with hunger, making it easy to reach for an average of 300 extra calories a day. At that rate, you might be looking at up to 2lbs of weight gain a month.  
  2. 2. More hours to eat.  The longer you are awake, the more likely you are to go for that late night snack.  Additionally, all throughout the day you are much more likely to choose snacks and meals that are higher in sugar, carbs, and fat to satisfy your lack of energy.  These foods are usually higher in calories and lower in vital nutrients your body needs (protein, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients)
  3. 3. Less water, fruits, and veggies.  When you are tired, you are less likely to get the recommended amount of fruits, veggies, and water each day.  This can leave your body nutritionally unsatisfied and wanting for something, which in your fatigued state is often satisfied with more sugar, carbs or fat for quick energy.  
  4. 4. Exercise less.  When you are not getting enough sleep, it can be much easier to skip your workout and opt for some downtime on the couch zoning out to your favorite TV show.  Lack of sleep coupled with increased intake and less movement is the perfect recipe for weight gain.  
  5. 5. Sluggish metabolism.  While you’re busy not sleeping, your body is struggling to keep up with basic metabolic functions such as processing food intake, detoxifying your body, and regulating hormones. 
  6. 6. Increased levels of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.”  Ghrelin triggers your appetite and increased levels can lead to a bigger appetite, increased caloric intake, and weight gain.
  7. 7. Decreased levels of leptin.  The hormone leptin, signals that the body is full and satisfied after eating and suppresses appetite.  Lack of sleep alters leptin levels, leaving you feeling unsatisfied after meals and wanting to eat more.  
  8. 8. More stress hormone.  When your body is not getting enough sleep, cortisol levels spike, signaling your body to conserve energy and store more fat…in your stomach!
  9. 9. Decreased insulin secretion.  This causes glucose levels in your body to rise and can lead to an increase in insulin resistance over time, a precursor to diabetes. 
  10. 10. Brain fog.  The more sleep deprived you are, the more your brain’s decision-making processes are affected.  This looks like decreased impulse control, increased cravings for junk food, and decreased motivation to exercise and eat well. 
  11. 11. Caffeine please! Do you find yourself ordering a quad shot latte in the morning to get going or needing that extra caffeine boost around 2:30 to make it through your work day? Caffeine is essentially the credit card debt of energy, you keep racking it up but not actually getting anywhere in terms of creating natural energy in your body.  Plus, it can make it difficult to fall asleep come bedtime.  
  12. 12. Take-out Time.  Feeling too tired to cook a healthy meal? Take out or dining out can sound like a much easier option when fatigue drains your desire to cook.  Restaurant food is generally much higher in fat, sugar, salt, and calories that can add up fast.  

Is that motivation enough to prioritize some quality ZZZ time?!  Here are a few ideas to help up those sleeping hours:

  • No screen time at least one hour before bed.
  • Save the bedroom for sleep & sexy time. Leave work and TV at the door and save this space for brain wind-down, relaxation, and release. 
  • Create a bedtime ritual or routine (bath, meditation, read, tea).
  • Schedule a regular sleep schedule, your body will adjust. You might need to set an alarm to remind you to begin your bedtime wind-down.  
  • Watch what you eat before bed. Avoid large, heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed, which can hinder falling or staying asleep. 
  • Block out all light (black out curtains). Darkness cues melatonin release in the body, stimulating the body’s natural sleep cycle.    
  • Make the mental shift to turn sleep into a priority for your health!

Good night!



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